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The Audi RS 3 is surprisingly engaging and fun to drive, something that you can’t say about a lot of other Audis.
Audi’s RS models are very fast and feature an advanced all-wheel drive system, so they feel very sure-footed, which is great for driver confidence and bad weather, but perhaps not the best for getting giggles while you drive. They’re amazing cars, but they don’t feel very alive. In fact, they can feel quite sterile.
So when we drove the new Audi RS 3 for the first time recently in Salalah, Oman, we were surprised (and delighted) to find it a bit tail happy, sliding up and down some of the switchbacks in the Gulf state. Considering that the competition for this car includes the rear-wheel drive, easy-to-drift BMW M2, Audi’s entry in this segment has to be just as much fun to drive. Fortunately, it is.
So how did Audi make the RS 3 feel as lively as the M2? One trick they used was a unique tire setup. Unlike the Toyota 86, the German automaker didn’t use tires known for limited grip — they used staggered sized tires instead. That means the tires at the front and rear of the vehicle are differently sized. In most applications of staggered tires, vehicles have wider tires at the rear to increase the contact patch and improve traction, preventing oversteer. It also looks pretty cool.
On the Audi RS 3, however, that’s reversed because the all-wheel-drive car is offered with an optional tire setup that puts wider tires up front. By increasing the size of the contact patch up front, the car has excellent turn-in and there’s more grip in the front than the rear, allowing the car to slide a bit. This makes the car feel more playful and gives it some personality that other Audis might be lacking.
According to Audi, this optional tire setup was also offered on the last-generation RS 3, a vehicle that wasn’t sold in North America. The last stock car you probably saw with this front-biased staggered setup was the old 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP.
Who would’ve guessed it? Not only is the new Audi RS 3 model a blast to drive, but it also shares something in common with an old Pontiac! We think it goes without saying, but the Audi is far more enjoyable than the Grand Prix could ever be.
This article first appeared on Auto Guide